Posted in Family

Auntie Sue aka The Skip-bo Queen of O.K. City

            My little Auntie Sue always said she was going to give Eve a ‘talkin to’ when she got to Heaven.  Never a complainer, she did want to tell Eve how miserable life with menstrual cycles, menopause and adult diapers was.  She blamed Eve for all of this and wanted to give her the ‘what for.’  It’s been several years now since Auntie Sue got to Heaven so I’m sure by now they’ve had their talk.  Being a reasonable soul, I’ll bet Sue got it out of her system and all is forgiven.  She never was one to hold a grudge…for too long.  Unless you continuously interrupted her sittin’ ugly time or messed with her family, then she could positively be ninety pounds of bulldog fury.

Auntie Sue and my mother

            Every morning, at the crack of dawn, she would make her one and only cup of Sanka and sit down to read her Bible and her Alanon book.  This was her sittin’ ugly time.  Her quiet time to get her mind straight for the day.  And then she was off like a bolt of lightning, hitting the trail for her morning mile with her sporty red walker.  Down the hall, down the elevator, past the common room, across the solarium, outside, down the sidewalk and across to another part of the building then back up the elevator and down the hall to her apartment 215.  She would do this twice a day, adjusting for rain or snow, as Oklahoma City was prone to have.  “You have to walk or die,” she would say.  And I believe her.

Family Reunion Love

            My little Auntie was over-the-top with enthusiasm.  If I came for a visit, she would say it was the best visit ever!  Every rent car I drove from the airport was the best car ever. It was always better than the last one.  Every joke she heard, was the funniest thing ever told.  Every meal was the most delicious.  Every game of Skipbo was more fun than the last and everyone she met received a compliment.  She was genius at complimenting even the hardest shell.  She was thankful for every phone call, card, and hug.  She was generous with her money and always tithed to the church, even on a fixed income.  She was fiercely loyal to her family and loved her only child more than life itself.

Ysleta and her son, Chuck (me)

            If she was here and heard me going on and on…tooting her horn, she would argue that she was not perfect, she had faults.  Maybe she did, but I never saw them.  Her five-foot frame, ninety pounds soaking wet, shock of white, curly hair and easy smile was perfect to me.  Her true grit, determination and positive attitude was perfection.  Auntie Sue had it all and everyone wanted to be her friend, even her would-be foes.

  Like her issue with Eve, there are many things in life we don’t understand now. There are loved ones who leave us too soon, and some things we know in part but won’t know the true reason until we’re in the by and by.  That’s just the way it is.

            January 19th would have been Auntie Sue’s ninety-ninth birthday.  Those of us who knew her and loved her, still miss her every day.  She was a loyal and loving wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend and there will always and forever be only one, Ysleta Davis Lane aka Auntie Sue, the original Sittin’ Ugly Sistah!

Posted in Friendship

How to Say Goodbye

How to Say Goodbye

 

How to Say Goodbye  by Nancy Malcolm:

I am unsure of how to tell you goodbye.  I’m holding your hand as if you were holding mine back and my breathing has slowed to match yours.  I sit as close to you as possible, but I don’t know how to say goodbye.  My mind is searching for the right words, but my heart is whispering “don’t go”, “don’t leave me”.  I’m at a loss as to how to say goodbye.

Because my mother died when I was so young, I am both familiar with loss and petrified of it.  For years, I tried to avoid all funerals except when it was a family member or I sensed that I was expected to attend.  Even then, the fear and discomfort I suffered was overwhelming.  It brought a flashback of emotions from long ago as if it were a fresh cut.  I just didn’t know how to say goodbye or let go of a loved one.  It is too much to ask of anyone, really.

How ironic that now I am a hospice volunteer.  Ironic? Or is it divine providence?

When I retired, I wanted to volunteer in some way.  No matter what I researched or thought about, I always came back to hospice.  Even though the thought of it scared me, it also tugged at my heart and settled in.  There were trainings and workshops and the many other volunteers who bade me welcome, saying: “You’re embarking on a sacred journey, friend, a chance to walk with another soul toward peace.  It will change your life forever.”  And they were right.

In my 6 ½ years, I have grown and changed and calmed.  At first, my nerves restricted me.  I felt that old familiar uneasiness and gut-wrenching clinch when I would begin my shift, but by the end of my visit, I would be at peace.  As time went on, I felt my whole insides becoming rewired.

One of my favorite patients still lived at home, when I met him.  He was a widower and had round the clock care. The three of us;  my patient, his caretaker and I shared many a Tuesday afternoon; peacefully sitting on his patio.  If he was feeling good and weather permitted, he and I would stroll around the yard as he pointed out each plant by name. He loved to tell stories about him and his wife gardening together.  As time went on, we just sat on the patio, hand in hand and passed the time in silence, only interrupted by the buzzing of a bee.  Sometimes, he would look over at me and smile, and on more than one occasion, I heard him say, “I’m going to miss my garden.”  “I know”, I said. “I know.”

My hospice patients have become like family, as was the case with a very special woman who I had the pleasure of knowing for three years.  Once a week we would get together to visit.  She would always be sitting in her chair, knitting or crocheting an intricate project.  Over the years she taught me to knit as she also shared stories of her faith and family.  Her eyes would light up when I walked into her room and my heart would always be full when I left.  We had an unconditional love and respect for one another that comforts me still to this day.

I have been so blessed and fortunate to have spent time, space and breath with these beautiful souls.  I’ve learned a lot about life and a lot about dying with dignity and grace.

           -I’ve learned that how you live is most likely how you will die.

           -No matter who you are; soft, human touch comforts.  It tells you, without the need              for words, that you are not alone.

I have had spiritual awakenings and unexplainable happenings.  I have laughed, cried, loved and felt someone else’s fear.  For, after all, we are still ‘ourselves’, even ravaged by disease or weakened with age.  We live until we die, in fact, dying is the last act of living.

The beautiful souls I have known through hospice have healed my heart, even as it breaks for them.  I no longer am afraid.  I no longer resist saying goodbye, when it is time.  Because I know, that just as I am saying goodbye and they are gone from my sight;  there are other souls rejoicing, as they are welcomed home on the other side.

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Posted in Friendship

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)

Posted in Grandmother

Soul Food by Nancy Malcolm

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My husband cooks with love.  Just ask him and he will say it’s true.  He thinks about what he wants to prepare, shops carefully and then loving cooks each dish….Soul Food.  He says he learned to cook from his Granny because she too, cooked with love.

People often refer to cornbread, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese as soul food.  Food that comforts and soothes the soul; calming and healing as it goes down.  Soul food is premeditated, planned and prepared.  Quite often, soul food is as looked forward to as a gift..just waiting to be opened.

But for me, soul food comes in a different package.  It isn’t creamed or fried.  It isn’t baked or frosted.  It is ingested through other senses and may be as much of a nuance as it is tangible.

Sometimes my grandson will look up at me and smile and kiss my hand.  Soul Food.  His smile and tender touch feed my soul with a warmth and satisfaction unequaled by chocolate cake or sweet potatoes.

Every morning, I rise early and quietly have my ‘sittin ugly’ time.  I fix my coffee, find my glasses and gather my soul food…inspirational reading, pen and paper and a soft corner of the couch…all mine.  Prayers, meditation, and coffee?  Soul food, plain and simple.

Most days I take a walk in my neighborhood or a nearby park.  Blue skies, green grass, and bright-colored flowers all make up my soul food plate.  A scoop of sunshine, a dollop of beautiful trees and a pinch of fresh air…stir it all together and wa la..soul food.

Soul food, food for the soul is always tasty.  It has just the right amount of savory and sweet, for you see, sometimes soul food isn’t what you want…it’s what you need.  Like a friend listening to your heartache and helping you see the gift within your pain.  Or an answered prayer that was ‘no, not yet’, instead of yes, yet turned out to be best.

Whether you cook with love or just love the cook, your soul food is ready for you right on time.  Our creator makes it so, surprising us with a different menu…a variety of tasty morsels, every day.  Look forward to your next delicious bite!  Yum-Yum and hallelujah!